In recent groundbreaking medical news, the New York Times reported a shocking discovery: that female cyclists are also prone to sexual dysfunction issues from cycling. Thanks, scientists for finally pointing your microscope at women who ride something more aggressive than a comfort bike or beach cruiser.
To summarize, a 2006 Yale study found that when compared to runners (why are we always compared to runners!?), female cyclists had less genital sensation. In the latest study, researchers measured female cyclists’ sensations in the pelvic floor and collected feedback about any numbness or tingling as women pedaled their own bikes in the lab. They concluded that women with lower handlebars, especially those lower than the saddle, were putting excess pressure on the perineum (soft tissue), which decreases sensation in the pelvic floor. The article states that “This problem is particularly likely to occur when a rider leans forward, flattens her back and puts her hands on the ‘drop bars’ of a road or track bicycle for a more aerodynamic position.” Essentially, the scientists recommend that women either ride with handlebars above saddle height or buy a nose-less saddle.
While it’s great that female cyclists are being taken seriously, I think this article fails to address a few things. Namely it implies that all time trialists or women who ride in an aggressive position should sit upright instead. But just as every rider doesn’t wear the same shoe size, saddle comfort varies as well. Yes, the majority of today’s saddles are designed with a man’s anatomy in mind, but, with enough searching, most women can find a saddle that fits their body and takes pressure off the sensitive tissue. This can be a long, exhausting search and is something I addressed in an earlier post here.
Numbness is a serious issue that shouldn’t be ignored, but before a woman drastically changes her bike position, she should first get a professional bike fit. Do some research and find a fitter that will take this issue seriously. A few other things to consider are if the saddle is sitting level and also how old the saddle is. A saddle is a wear item and if it starts to morph into a torture device, it’s time to shell out for a new one. A decent pair of shorts or bibs will also help keep things copasetic down below.
And, of course, I would love to hear your opinions on this subject!